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India To Get Back 500 Year Old Stolen Bronze Idol From Oxford University

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London: World-renowned university Oxford has agreed to return a 500-year-old bronze idol to India on Monday. The idol is of a saint which is believed to be stolen from a Temple in Tamil Nadu.

University’s Ashmolean Museum in a statement said “On 11 March 2024, the Council of the University of Oxford supported a claim from the Indian High Commission for the return of a 16th-century bronze sculpture of Saint Tirumankai Alvar from the Ashmolean Museum. This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval”.

The 60cm-tall statue of Saint Tirumankai Alvar was acquired by the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford from Sotheby’s auction house in 1967 from the collection of a collector named Dr JR Belmont (1886-1981).

The museum said that an independent researcher had alerted them of the origins of the ancient statue in November last year after which the museum informed the Indian High Commission. The museum, which holds some of the world’s most famous art and archaeology artefacts, says it acquired the statue in “good faith” in 1967.

There have been many instances of stolen Indian artefacts being brought back to India from the UK. The latest occurred in August of last year when, as a result of a joint US-UK investigation involving Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit, a bronze sculpture known as “Navaneetha Krishna” from the 17th century Tamil Nadu and a limestone carved relief sculpture from Andhra Pradesh were given to the Indian High Commissioner to the UK.

 

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